The Cocker Spaniel is a dog belonging to one of two breeds of the Spaniel dog type, the American Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel, both of which are commonly called simply the Cocker Spaniel in their native countries. Cocker Spaniels were bred as hunting dogs in the U. K, with the term Cocker deriving from their use to hunt the European Woodcock. When the breed was exported to the U. S, it was bred to a different standard, which enabled it to specialize in hunting the American Woodcock, further changes were bred into the American Cocker Spaniel early in the 20th century.
The Cocker Spaniel is commonly assumed to have originated in Spain, before making their way to England in the 15th century. Edward of Norwich, Second Duke of York introduced them in his 15th century work the Master of the game, he says ‘ another kind of hound there is, that be called hounds for the hawk and spaniels, for their kind cometh from Spain, notwithstanding that there are many in other countries’. The Master of the game was an English translation of an earlier 14th century old French work by Gaston III of Foiy Bearn entitled ‘Livre de chase.’
In 1801 Sydenham Edwards (a natural history illustrator) wrote in ‘Cynographia Britannia’ that the land spaniel is divided into two types, the Springing/Springer Spaniel and the Cocking/Cocker Spaniel. During the 19th century a Cocker Spaniel was a type of small Field Spaniel, at the time the term referred to a number of different spaniel hunting breeds, including the Norfolk Spaniel, the Sussex Spaniel and the Clumber Spaniel.
Prior to the 1870s, a dog was only required to weigh less than 25lb (11kg) to be classed as a Cocker Spaniel, this maximum weight limit remained in place until 1900, with heavier dogs being classed as Springer Spaniels.
After the formation of the U. K Kennel club in 1873, efforts were made by breeders to record the pedigree of Cockers and Springers, in 1892 Cocker Spaniels and English Springer Spaniels were recognised as different breeds by the Kennel club.
Two dogs are thought to be the foundation sires of both the modern Cocker Spaniel breeds, Ch.Obo is considered to be the father of the modern English Cocker Spaniel, while is son Ch.Obo II is considered to be the progenitor of the American Cocker Spaniel. Obo was born in 1879, when registration was still only by size and not by ancestry, he was the son of a Sussex Spaniel and a Field Spaniel.
Although Obo was an English dog, Obo II was born on American shores, his mother was shipped to the U. S while pregnant, during his lifetime Obo II was claimed in advertisements to be the sire or grand sire of nearly every prize winning Cocker Spaniel in America.
THE MODERN BREEDS.
Cocker Spaniels were bred as gun dogs to use their sense of smell to cover low areas near to the handler, to flush birds into the air to be shot, and then use their eyes and nose to locate the bird once downed, retrieving the bird with its soft mouth.
The major differences between the American and the English Cocker Spaniels varieties is that the American is smaller, with a shorter back, a domed head and a shorter muzzle, the English variety is taller with a narrower head and chest.
Cocker Spaniels coats occur in variety of colours including black, liver, red and golden. Rare colours can occur unexpectedly in certain lines, for instance while an all white Cocker can be bred by selective breeding of very light golden strains, occasionally they can appear to parent of darker colours.
In the U. S the American Cocker Spaniel was ranked 23rd most popular dog according to registrations with the American Kennel club in 2009, a decrease in popularity from 1999 when it was 13th, its popularity continues to wane and in 2019 it was ranked 30th.
In the U. K the American Cocker is far less popular than its English counterpart, with 322 registrations in 2009 compared to the English Cockers 22,211.
The Cocker Spaniel has a sweet disposition and tend to be intelligent, which makes them a good family pet. They are easy to train but have a sensitive nature, which means they won’t respond well to harsh training, using positive reinforcement with plenty of encouragement is the best way to go.
According to the U. K Kennel club standard a male English Cocker Spaniel should stand 15.5 to 16in (38 to 41cm) at the withers, the female 15 to 15.5in (38 to 39cm), and weigh between 28 to 32lb (13 to 15kg). The American Cocker is slightly smaller 14.5 to 15.5in (37 to 39cm) at the withers for males and 13.5 to 14.5in (34 to 37cm) for females, weighing in at 24 to 30lb (11 to 14kg). The average lifespan for both the American and English Cocker is 10 to 12 years’
Cocker Spaniels like other dog breeds with large rendulous ears are prone to ear problems, the fold of the ear can prevent air from entering which can create a warm environment for organisms to grow. Ottis Externa is an inflamation of the ear canal which can be caused by parasites, microorganisms and other foreign bodies. Keeping the hair short in and around the ear can help prevent problems.
Eye problems are also common as they are with a lot of dog breeds, they are usually not serious if treated, but if left untreated they can cause visual impairment and eventually blindness.